Developing an energy efficient sensor network for real-time flood monitoring

Griffith University researchers have been awarded a $400,000 grant from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to develop a network of energy efficient smart sensors to help Vietnam combat flooding.

Working with Saigon Hi-Tech Park Labs and the University of Southern Queensland, Associate Professor Dzung Dao, Head of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design, is leading the project to create a web of micro-sensors spread throughout Ho Chi Minh City to monitor flood levels in real-time.

“Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, faces weekly deluges of flood water that severely impacts more than 60% of its citizens and causes severe economic loss every year,” Associate Professor Dao said.

Associate Professor Dzung Dao (Centre), Head of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design

“The first step to overcoming the problem is developing a sensory system throughout the city that monitors water levels so we to find out exactly where and when it is flooding.”

“Several flood detection systems have been tried in the past, but as these used cameras and conventional sensors and communication systems they were costly and had power consumption issues.”

The innovative energy efficient wireless sensor network developed by researchers at Griffith University will use tiny nano-sensors, that can be mass produced for a fraction of the cost and with significantly lower power consumption. Hundreds of these sensors deployed on land and in rivers will wirelessly feed flood information back to a hub on the internet creating a smart long-range sensor network.

“Surprisingly, we discovered that as the sensors get smaller they start to take on interesting properties. They get more and more sensitivity to changes in the environment and actually get stronger,” Associate Professor Dao said.

“The hot and humid weather, heavy rain, and high outflow from rivers, urbanised areas and obsoleted sewage systems also leads to poor performance and lifespan for flood detection sensors. However, our tiny silicon carbide sensors are robust enough to withstand a long deployment in these harsh environments.”

The internet linked sensor network will act as an early flood detection and warning system, assisting emergency services and warning for citizens in the city via a mobile phone app, helping people avoid flooded areas, mitigating human and economic losses in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Our sensor network is also the essential first step to developing an automated response system for the prevention of local flooding in the city using stormwater drainage infrastructure to capture, divert, or pump water to less flooded areas,” Associate Professor Dao said.

“Once we have a proof of concept of this smart monitoring network in Ho Chi Minh City, we envision similar systems being installed in further regions of Vietnam and other countries also affected by economically crippling flooding.”